Christmas Pick --- Lady On A Train
Got an e-mail from The Film Noir Foundation promoting their Frisco/Castro Theatre "Christmas Noir" show, which this year featured a Deanna Durbin two-fer, Lady On A Train and Christmas Holiday. The latter's title misleads --- it's a downer equivalent to coal in stockings, but Lady On A Train pleases for lightly-applied Noir, a night club set lavishly appointed, and a not-so-mysterious, but still engaging, murder mystery. It's Universal-sandwiched (1945) between Phantom Lady and The Killers, of a piece with both, and gorgeous on a DVD issued several years back (as part of a Durbin "Sweetheart Pack."
|Where Have All The Gun-Wielding Leading Ladies|
in Romantic Comedies Gone?
|New York's Premiere for Lady On A Train|
One contribution the no-expense-spared Durbins made was lush sets left over for lower-cost brethren to later occupy. I kept figuring Lionel Atwill or Rondo Hatton to peek out from behind one of Lady On A Train's plush curtains. All of Universal seems like home once you've sat for its "Shock" package, and much of a coming generation would. Splurges like for Durbin were the anomalies there. (Comparative) cheapies such as horrors, Sherlock Holmes, and so forth were benign scavengers upon plates left by Deanna and unaccustomed "A" guests at U's table.
|Off-Screen Durbin Date of the Moment Al (pre-Lash) LaRue Gets In His Few Words of Dialogue|
In fact, Lady On A Train has much old house and creepy appeal, enough to vault past spookiest of straight chillers, thanks to greater $ spent and effort applied. The set-up of Deanna observing a murder from inside a passing train happens within an opening minute, assuring reasonable pace from there. Mysteries work better on me as age presses (they didn't used to), even when the killer's identity is clear for the same actor having 'dunit so frequently in the past. A huge help too is Miklos Rozsa's moody score. It's not tricked for comedy or Mickey Mouse-ing effect. You could as easily graft this music onto Double Indemnity and come away satisfied.
|Former Mad Ghoul David Bruce Promoted by Universal to "A" Lead Opposite Durbin|
Deanna doesn't sing until forty minutes in. A few night-club background-ed tunes follow. One of them is Night And Day, among H'wood moments where you could accurately say a camera caresses its subject. Some of the comedy is silly, if not foolish, the kind you'd need two thousand folks crowded in a theatre to make work. Again there is clash between ingénue Durbin and sexier persona developed by the actress as she grew. DD really sold allure where she could, obviously in hope of putting to bed a Miss Fix-it she deplored. I'd guess without knowing that Lady On A Train was (is) one of her favorites, for glamour treatment it afforded if not husband-to-be Charles David in the director's chair.
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Finally among good things is Lady On A Train's Christmas setting. It makes a swell combo with MGM's Lady In The Lake, another that combines Yule cheer with murder investigating. Whether stories work in these is less vital than irresistible 40's modern-dress backdrops --- offices, night spots, trains, apartments, all so much classier and appealing than stripped-down remnants of gracious living 2011's stuck with. Such shows are a lifestyle tour of gone times and so much more vivid now that we're in digital receipt of them.